So you are planning to host a party or dinner and a friend or loved one has recently announced they have become vegan? Now what?
For most people, their first thought may be: what is vegan? A person who has become vegan does not eat food that has animal products in it. Also, most people that consider themselves vegan do not purchase products that are made from animal products either (at least not intentionally). Some people consider themselves plant-based, which means their diet is primarily vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and nuts but do not necessarily abstain from purchasing products made from leather, etc.
So now that I’ve outlined a basic idea of what veganism is, what does a host or hostess do if one of their guests is vegan?
Here are some tips for handling this situation:
1. We don’t just eat salads.
There are many delicious dishes that are made free of dairy and meat. Feel free to ask the vegan person that has been invited over for some suggestions if you truly don’t know where to start. Luckily there are thousands of Vegan recipes online as well. Cooking vegan meals are actually easier than expected. Keep it simple, and you probably can’t go wrong.
2. Please refrain from complaining to us.
Chances are the person you invited over is already feeling a little tired of explaining what they eat, and defending their reasons for choosing this lifestyle. I know personally, I am very happy when someone has made an effort to include a vegan dish, but I generally don’t expect anyone to go out of their way either. The last thing we want to hear is complaints about our choices. Not everyone is going to be happy all the time, that’s true. For a pleasant experience, please keep complaints to yourself.
3. It’s not funny to trick us.
I have heard a few sad stories of family members and friends telling their vegan guest that a dish was vegan when it actually wasn’t. This is usually followed up with quite a bit of laughing and ribbing that they “got one over on the vegan.” That behavior is downright cruel. If you really want to lose trust and friendship, this is a sure way to do it. On top of that, many people that have followed a plant-based diet for a long time can actually get sick from eating dairy and foods their bodies aren’t used to. We would rather not spend the rest of the day nauseated and hurt that the people we trusted lied to us.
4. It’s probably not a phase, so don’t expect that it is.
Yes, it is true that some people go vegan for awhile and then go back to their carnivorous ways. However for many people, this choice is based on ethical reasons as well as a healthier diet. After we have seen what goes on in factory farms and slaughterhouses, those images are hard to erase. Chances are, this is a permanent change so don’t assume that next Thanksgiving we will want to eat turkey.
5. Do expect us to make mistakes.
We are human. For many of us, especially when we first start down this path, we will mess up. Maybe we didn’t realize Pop Tarts had gelatin in them. Maybe we had a moment of weakness and ate a chocolate bar. Please don’t make us feel bad about this. This doesn’t mean we have thrown in the towel and want to start eating veal.
6. It’s okay to ask questions.
Inquires made in an open and honest way are usually welcome. I don’t mind explaining why I made this choice to people that really want to know. I do not, however, enjoy defending my views to a hostile group. I don’t mind telling people what I eat but do not appreciate criticism or uneducated opinions about my diet. While a friendly discussion about food can be fun, sometimes I just want to relax and enjoy everyone’s company rather than engage in a heated debate. This leads me to my next tip:
7. Remember the purpose of the “get together.”
The purpose of Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or whatever event is being celebrated is to be with the people you love and enjoy each other’s company. This is not about who is right or wrong. This is not about my diet is better than yours. This is about love. Please don’t bring hate to the table.
We all change and grow. Sometimes when we see someone we care about begin to change, our first reaction is to try to stop it. It’s hard to accept. Saying or doing things that impede their personal growth can only hurt the relationship you have with them.
Try to be open to this new chapter in their life. Your vegan loved-one will be ever so grateful.
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Ed: Sara Crolick